Old School vs New School: Revisiting Devil May Cry

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Written by Chris Guyton

With Ninja Theory’s Devil May Cry reboot less than a month away, I thought it might be fun to replay the original PlayStation 2 masterpiece and shed some light on just how far the series has come since it first burst onto the scene in 2001. Luckily, getting my hands on a copy of the original game was easy enough. The recent trend of bundling an older game series onto one single disc with an HD coat of paint came in handy for this article, as the HD edition of the original Devil May Cry was the version that I used to revisit this classic title.

The first Devil May Cry game was originally conceived as an entry in Capcom’s Resident Evil series. As such, the game shares a lot in common with the first three games in that franchise, which could be good or bad depending on how fast you got bored of the old RE formula. The game uses a fixed camera perspective, so as you walk through certain areas the camera switches direction to give you a different view of the room or area that you’re in. This technique was implemented in the first few Resident Evil games to increase drama, and while it worked well in the late 90s and early 2000s, this style really doesn’t age very well. It’s confusing to be walking one way and have the camera angle change and thus having to change the direction you’re pushing the analog stick. This can be especially frustrating during some combat sequences, when the camera is constantly changing because of haphazard jumping and dodging your enemies. It’s honestly no wonder why we haven’t seen a fixed camera Resident Evil game since RE3, and why the Devil May Cry reboot won’t be sporting this archaic technique. 

A major change from the original game is the make over they’ve given to the game’s protagonist, Dante. In the original game, Dante is the Son of Sparda, the Demon King and a human mother. In DmC his origin story has slightly changed; his mother is now an angel and his being entirely supernatural. While most of the staple aspects of the character will remain intact as far as his trademark dual pistols and outlandishly lavish sword, the original Dante was the archetype of a “cool and stylish” man. By contrast, the version presented in the new games is very much rough around the edges, very immature and childish. The Dante presented in the first game surely had a big hand in why the series became successful and it is apparent from the first time we see him that he was nothing less than a total badass. With his stark white hair, flowing red garb and “devil may care” attitude (see what they did there?), series creator Hideki Kimiya succeeded in crafting a character that made the player feel fearless without being obnoxiously self-righteous, something that many fear may be the downfall of the new Dante. As anyone who played the recently released DmC demo has witnessed, some of the phrases uttered by the new Dante teeter on the edge of making him unlikable (“I’m your prom date, you ugly sack of $#!*”), and many gamers, including myself, are a little worried that this might be too much of a departure from the original vision for the character.

Camera issues, costume differences and attitude changes aside, the first Devil May Cry established the franchise we all know and love, as well as creating a few staple elements that have come to define the series as a whole. One such aspect that has continued to be passed down from game to game is the “style ranking” system. During combat, a rank will appear in the top right hand corner of the screen starting from “D” and climbing up to the top of the alphabet depending on how far along you get in your combo. What was even cooler was that the rank would be accompanied by a word that starts with the first letter of your rank, like “Dull” for example. It added a great aesthetic to the original game, and it’s comforting to know that the reboot is keeping this aspect intact.

The original game also boasted a few RPG elements in the gameplay which included the ability to change and upgrade your weapons as the game progresses. This aspect helped keep combat fresh and made the game a lot less boring than your typical ‘hack n’ slash’ outing. Since Dante is both a swordsman and a gunslinger, this particular attribute was a lot of fun. Not a pistol type of guy? No problem, here’s a shotgun. Blow your enemies to bits without sacrificing speed and look like a badass while doing it. That’s what Devil May Cry was about, fast-paced action and style. Even when the game demands you complete some sort of puzzle to get through an area, it doesn’t drag you down while doing it. If a puzzle is presented, you better believe your sword is the answer. Slash away at whatever is in your path and keep moving. This game never lets up, and hopefully the reboot will maintain the same type of energy that was all so apparent in the original.

If you’ve been anxiously awaiting the release of DmC, it’s highly recommended that anyone with an Amazon account picks up the Devil May Cry HD Collection and explores the roots of the series. The first game still holds up amazingly even 11 years later, and while it’s not without it’s faults, it is definitely worthy of everyone’s time just to see how far the series has come since it’s debut. Let’s hope that Ninja Theory can bring us a game worthy of the Devil May Cry name.

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